Submitted by: Tara
Adventure friends are the best friends, and I am lucky to have some gems. Specifically because one of them has a knack for getting everyone organized and booked before you have truly committed to the activity. Last year this resulted in one of the best trips of my life. We were lucking enough to get ourselves booked into the beautiful ACC run Wates Gibson hut in the Tonquin valley. The Tonquin Valley had been on my list for a while, not only because of the amazing views, stunning valleys, and shocking Ramparts (pictured), but because it remains one of the best places to see Woodland Caribou, an at-risk species that I have been working to protect for the better part of two years now.
The trip on labour day long weekend was off to a grim start as we headed out in the pouring rain, on the muddiest trail, with loaded packs (we subbed the volume we saved on tents, sleeping mats, and stoves because of the hut for beer which weighs substantially more.) The forecast was calling for rain, snow and grey skies all weekend. The only thing keeping our spirits up was the promise of the hut and the prospect of drying out our soggy clothes over a fire.
A night of drying off, good food, and new friends in the hut was what we needed before another day of hiking in the rain. Little did we know nature had a treat instore for us.
We started out the day in a light dusting of fresh snow, which eventually melted into some more mud. As tedious and exhausting as thick slippery mud is to walk in, it provides an amazing glimpse of the other trail users.
It was just before our lunch stop when we got to meet one of the other trail users face to face.
We rounded a corner, about to dip down into a boggy meadow when we were privileged enough to meet a whole caribou family! A peaceful cow, and calf were laying down and grazing, with a big buck nearby.
The large and stocky animals were not terribly concerned with our arrival in the meadow and let us observe and photograph them (from a respectable distance) without fuss. We got to spend a glorious 25 minutes with them before my friends, who have less motivation to watch wildlife do (in their minds) very little, for hours on end, pulled me away. I fell so fortunate to have met these iconic animals. We are losing them rapidly from our landscape, but it was so magical to see them munching away without much concern for the threats facing their species.
Although I didn’t think the day could get any better than it already had, it was as if the wilderness powers that be were rewarding us for heading out on a rainy cold weekend. The clouds cleared and the sun shone as we reached the valley that held the ramparts, affording us a stunning view of the main attractant to the Tonquin. We ate our lunch sans rain, and it managed to stay clear for the entire evening, allowing us to enjoy one of our very heavy beers under a crystal clear starry sky.
I always leave the wilderness with a smile, but after the surprises on this adventure, you could barely contain my grin.